Stinging nettles are a godsend in April, when supplies of last season’s veggies are running low and next season’s veggies are not quite ready. When I took a wander up to the allotment on Thursday, I noticed Ade had left one of the veg beds fallow and it was thick with nettles! They were at their best; young, fresh, the new shoots ripe for the picking. (Ouch! Wear gloves, dear reader.)
Nettles are a great wild food to forage. They’re plentiful, they’re delicious, and they’re rich in iron, magnesium and calcium. They lend themselves to all sorts of recipes, from teas to tarts. Nettle pesto is a particular favourite of mine. Just make sure you harvest the young, tender tips only, and don’t leave it too late in the season as they become bitter after they’ve flowered. April is the perfect month for them here in Hertfordshire.
I turned my stinging nettle harvest into a simple houmous recipe for lunch, and this really is a great place to start if you’ve never eaten nettles before. It’s quick, easy and the houmous has a very delicate nettle taste, it’s not overpowering at all. By all means, double the quantity of nettles if you’re willing to try something punchier (or if your allotment is in such a parlous state, you have a limitless supply of weeds to work with!)
Serve the wild nettle houmous with strips of warm flat bread and crudités. Sadly, we’ve eaten the last of our stored carrots, and by the time our homegrown summer veggies are ready to serve alongside this, the nettles will be past their best, so shop-bought crudités had to do in this instance. But I did manage to find some tasty, young nasturtium leaves to use as a garnish.
WILD NETTLE HOUMOUS
Prep: 10 mins Serves: 4 as a snack
A couple of handfuls of stinging nettles (I used about 25g, but you can add more)
1 400g tin of chickpeas
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon tahini
A good squeeze of lemon juice
1-2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Bring a pan of water to the boil.
Wearing gloves, thoroughly wash the nettles, before blanching in boiling water for about 1 minute. This will remove the sting.
Drain the nettles, reserving some of the water. (You can drink this as a tea, but I find it useful to splash some into the houmous later on, to loosen the mixture.) Run the nettles under cold water to stop them cooking.
Drain and rinse the chickpeas and tip into a food processor.
Peel and roughly chop the garlic, and add to the food processor along with the tahini, lemon juice and 1 tbsp of olive oil.
Squeeze the water from the nettles, chop roughly and add to the food processor.
Season well with salt and pepper, put the lid on and blitz until smooth. Have a taste, adjust the seasoning, and add another squeeze of lemon juice, a little more oil and some nettle water if the mixture is too dry. Blitz again.
Once you’re happy with the taste and consistency, transfer the wild nettle houmous into a bowl and serve with warm flatbreads and crudités.
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